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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Oct 2014
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    Post How Far Can We Optimize Bardic Music?

    What is Holding Bards Back?

    The humble bard, a charisma-based limited caster class, is a fun and flavorful class to play and, by JaronK's tier list, a solidly T3 class. For reference, a T3 class is described by JaronK as:

    Tier 3: Capable of doing one thing quite well, while still being useful when that one thing is inappropriate, or capable of doing all things, but not as well as classes that specialize in that area. Occasionally has a mechanical ability that can solve an encounter, but this is relatively rare and easy to deal with. Can be game breaking only with specific intent to do so. Challenging such a character takes some thought from the DM, but isn't too difficult. Will outshine any Tier 5s in the party much of the time.
    The bard is a focused, limited caster, so next to the sorcerer (the primary charisma-based PHB caster to which the bard might be compared), it may look rather lackluster. Early game, bards gain access to first and third level spells a level later than full-casters, and have drastically fewer spells per day and spells known; late game, bards fall even further behind in casting, capping out at 6ths by level 20. Bards have some very excellent spells in their list, but everything they do with their casting is usually done better by a sorcerer.

    However, what bards lack in advanced casting, they make up for with class features. Bardic music, along with the host of ACFs and PrCs that expand or alter it, offer bards a huge amount of options to buff allies, debuff enemies, and resolve non-combat encounters, along with plenty of flexible uses per day. As most bardic music is mind-affecting, however, it is often irrelevant against common enemy types (undead, constructs, plants, vermin, to name a few), higher level enemies (who have access to Mind Blank or some other spell or template-based immunity), and eventually becomes difficult to use on allies as they are driven to keep Mind Blank up as often as possible for defensive purposes. Thus, their mechanical ability is quite "easy to deal with."

    There are some feats that allow bards to bypass some of these immunities, however. For example, Requium allows bards to use their bardic music on undead creatures; Green Ear allows bards to use their bardic music on plant creatures. It's a good start, but bards aren't exactly getting bonus feats as the fighter does, so taking one feat for every creature type isn't sustainable. Additionally, there aren't feats printed for every type -- to the best of my knowledge, they stopped at those two. Finally, these style of feats don't touch on immunities from spells, templates, or classes. As such, the best solution seems to be the epic feat "Music of the Gods." With this, we can lean into our identity as a bard: our music.

    Accessing Music of the Gods

    Music of the Gods states:

    Prerequisite: Perform 30 ranks, CHA 25, bardic music class feature,

    Benefit: Your bardic music can affect even those normally immune to mind-affecting effects. However, such creatures gain a +10 bonus on their Will saves to resist such effects.
    As such, in order to access this feat without being level 21 or higher, we need to be able to select epic feats, and we need to be able to meet its steep skill rank requirements.

    Spoiler: Accessing Epic Feats Pre-Epic
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    Normally, epic feats are inaccessible to characters under level 21, but there are notable exceptions. Martial Monks, for example, can arguably select epic fighter feats as their bonus feats. For our purposes, however, the Dragonwrought Kobold is more useful. Dragonwrought is a racial feat that Kobolds may start play with that makes them a dragon. According to the Draconomicon, epic feats "are available to characters of 21st level or higher. Dragons of at least old age also can choose these feats even if they have no class levels." This means that old or older Dragonwrought Kobolds should also be eligible to select epic feats. Some will argue that this means that they need not qualify for the other prerequisites, but as that would also mean that a level 1 Dragonwrought Kobold can take Epic Spellcasting, let's err on the side of caution and agree that the character must also meet the other prerequisites for those epic feats, even if they are allowed to select them pre-epic.


    Spoiler: Reaching 30 Perform Ranks by Level 3
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    Music of the Gods also requires that you have 30 ranks in Perform. Normally, that would mean that you would need to be level 27 to select the feat, but as with the requirement to be level 21 or higher, there are ways to satisfy this requirement early. For example, the Primary Contact feat would allow a character to exceed their maximum skill rank by 1, although that is woefully insufficient for this job. Likewise, taking three Bloodline levels can raise your maximum skill cap by 3, which falls a little shy of the 30 ranks we need to achieve, but is a step in the right direction. The most significant way to raise your skill ranks past their normal maximum, however, is by using temporary hit dice. There are a variety of ways to gain temporary hit dice, and when they expire, there are no game rules written that remove skill ranks you've expended beyond your new, lower maximum. Indeed, with the Primary Contact feat, there is precedent for legally having skill ranks beyond your maximum without issue. Some common sources of temporary hit dice are:

    • Inspire Greatness, a bardic music, ironically enough, that grants 2 bonus hit dice, which can be increased with the feats Song of the Heart and Words of Creation to grant 6 bonus hit dice
    • Contracting one or more strains of Lycanthropy, which grants the relevant animal hit dice for each strain (sadly, not applicable to dragons)
    • Using the Polymorph spell (or a similar effect) to take the form of a Dusk Giant (Heroes of Horror), gaining their extraordinary Cannibalize special attack. Cannibalize, among other things, allows Dusk Giants to consume 20HD of nonsentient living creatures (take your pick of defenseless creatures like chickens, or perhaps a can of worms) to gain 1 hit dice. They can do this until they reach 24HD, and the HD fade at a rate of 1/day, assuming they don't vanish when the Polymorph ends and you lose the ability, or can be drained off by a handy negative-level-inducing undead.


    Combining the Polymorph method with three levels of a Bloodline (or even just one use of Inspire Greatness) would leave us with a maximum skill rank of 30 or higher. If we can maintain this for long enough, we could use the retraining rules to load all the skillpoints we gained at our most recent level, but the easier method is to use the psionic power Psychic Reformation to shuffle our skillpoints around to their desired locations.


    As a result of the processes in the spoilers, a Dragonwrought Kobold can take Music of the Gods as early as we can afford the Polymorph and Psychic Reformation, meaning we could take it as our level 3 feat; our level 1 feat must be Dragonwrought. That prompts the question, however: in addition to the basic bardic music abilities granted by vanilla bard, what PrCs or feats would interact with Music of the Gods?

    Bardic Prestige Class and Feat Options

    After some splatbook diving and critical examination of bardic music, I found that some abilities consume bardic music, but don't seem to count as bardic music in and of themselves. For example, Lyric Spell is a Bardic feat that allows you to expend charges of bardic music to cast spells, but explicitly counts as part of a spellcasting action, not bardic music. In addition, some things create alternate subsystems that look a lot like bardic music, but don't seem to have any text allowing them to count as bardic music. For example, the Evangelist gains "Great Orator" rather than bardic music, and while its class levels stack with bard to determine the strength of their abilities, the great orator abilities seem to be entirely distinct from bardic music.

    I decided to take a closer look to make a more comprehensive list at the prcs. The two criteria I was initially interested in were:

    • Does this class or feat expand the ways we can use bardic music, or does it offer its own subsystem?
    • If this choice expands our bardic music, do any of these expanded musics have the Mind-Affecting tag so as to benefit from Music of the Gods?


    Spoiler: Classes that Reference Bardic Music:
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    Bard: Yes, and yes, of course.
    Dawncaller: Yes, and yes.
    Dervish: No.
    Dirgesinger: Probably yes, and yes. "Each use of these songs counts as a use of bardic music."
    Dread Pirate: No.
    Dwarven Chanter: Maybe, and yes. "Chanting follows the same rules as bardic music."
    Evangelist: No.
    Exalted Arcanist: No.
    Fochlucan Lyrist: No.
    Heartfire Fanner: Yes, and yes.
    Lyric Thaumaturge: No.
    Memory Smith: No.
    Mourner: No.
    Ollam: No.
    Prestige Bard: No.
    Purple Dragon Knight: No.
    Seeker of the Song: Maybe, yes. "Seeker music follows the same rules as bardic music."
    Stormsinger: Yes, and no.
    Sublime Chord: Yes, and no.
    Troubadour of Stars: Yes, and yes.
    Virtuoso: No.
    War Chanter: Maybe, yes. "War chanter music follows the same rules as bardic music."
    Warrior Skald: Yes, and yes.


    Spoiler: Feats that Reference Bardic Music:
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    Arcane Accompaniment: No.
    Artist: No.
    Battle Dancer: No.
    Captivating Melody: Uses charge, no.
    Chant of Fortitude: Uses charge, no.
    Chant of the Long Road: Uses charge, no.
    Chord of Distraction: Uses charge, no.
    Courageous Rally: Expands Inspire Courage, so yes.
    Devoted Performer: No.
    Doomspeak: Uses charge, no.
    Dragonfire Inspiration: Expands Inspire Courage, so yes.
    Dragonsong: No.
    Enchanting Song: Uses charge, no.
    Epic Inspiration: No.
    Epic of the Lost King: Uses charge, no.
    Extra Music: No.
    From Smite to Song: No.
    Green Ear: Mimics Music of the Gods for plants, but also affects Virtuoso.
    Group Inspiration: No.
    Haunting Voice: No.
    Ice Harmonics: Uses charge, no.
    Initiate of Hlal: No.
    Initiate of Milil: No.
    Inspire Spellpower: Explicit yes, yes.
    Ironskin Chant: Uses charge, no.
    Lasting Inspiration: No.
    Lingering Song: No.
    Lyric Spell: Uses charge, but explicitly says this counts as a spellcasting action. Weaker case than the other charge-consuming abilities.
    Melodic Casting: No.
    Metamagic Song: Uses charges, no.
    Misleading Song: Uses charge, no.
    Music of the Gods: Duh.
    Music of the Outer Spheres: Explicit yes, yes.
    Ranged Inspiration: No.
    Rapid Inspiration: No.
    Reactive Countersong: No.
    Requiem: Mimics Music of the Gods for undead, but also affects Virtuoso.
    Snowflake Wardance: Uses charge, no.
    Song of the White Raven: No.
    Sound of Silence: Uses charge, no.
    Subsonics: No.
    Sunken Song: No.
    Talfirian Song: Uses charge, no.
    Warning Shout: Uses charge, yes.
    Windsinger: Uses charge, no.
    Words of Creation: No.


    That left us with this short-list to consider for effects:

    Spoiler: Music of the Gods Synergies
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    Dawncaller: Inspire courage, and music that grants barbarian rage, fatigue-deferral, or DR and various strength-related bonuses. Also gain music that can make an antipathy effect. Antipathy is a level 9 spell, and it lasts 2 hours per class level, so this could actually be notable for some sort of optimization.

    Spoiler: Song of Warding
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    Beginning at 6th level, a dawncaller with 14 or more ranks in Perform (sing) can use song to help protect an area from incursion by unwanted creatures. Dawncallers generally use this song to protect a goliath tribe's camp at night. The dawncaller must sing the song of warding for 5 minutes; when this time has elapsed, he creates an antipathy effect that lasts for 2 hours per class level. The Will save DC for a song of warding is 10 + class level + dawncaller's Cha modifier. Song of warding is an enchantment (compulsion), mind-affecting ability. Keeping this effect up on the Dawncaller's person can offer some significant protection against any that engage from any sort of close or medium range.


    Dirgesinger: Invoke a -2 debuff to enemy will saves, attack rolls, and damage rolls, or bolster undead against turning, or force confusion on an enemy, or deal a bunch of strength and dex damage, or animate a corpse (with all class features and spells) with total loyalty until the Dirgesinger stops performing. The animation is interesting (even if it doesn't benefit from MotG), but the confusion is probably the highest OP effect. The confusion lasts until the bard stops performing and 5 rounds thereafter, and has an effective range of 60 feet, so it can pretty easily disable a powerful foe.

    Spoiler: Song of Grief
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    A dirgesinger of 3rd level or higher can use song or poetics to inspire maddening grief in a living creature. The creature must be within 60 feet of the dirgesinger and able to hear him. Unless the target succeeds on a Will save (DC 10 + the dirgesinger's ranks in Perform), she becomes confused for as long as the dirgesinger performs and for 5 rounds thereafter. Song of grief is an enchantment (compulsion), mind-affecting ability. A 10% chance to act normally, 10% chance to attack the bard with melee or ranged weapons, 30% chance to attack the nearest creature (probably an ally), 30% chance to totally disable, 20% chance to flee or be disabled? Seems very effective. Only works at 60 feet and on a single enemy, however, but still notable.


    Dwarven Chanter: Gain a "war chant" that is like inrpite courage, but doesn't scale, and also gives enemies a -1 debuff to attack and damage rolls. A little underwhelming when we're looking for epic synergies.

    Heartfire Fanner: Grants two mind-affecting abilities. One is Inspired Fight, which allows the fanner to grant one or more allies a feat from the fighter feat list OR a feat the Fanner has. The other ability is Prolonged Passion, which allows the heartfire fanner to inspire one or more targets to prolong almost any effect on them for rounds equal to the fanner's charisma. This doesn't prevent them from being dispelled or dismissed, however. This seems of note, too, as you can use this on allies, as the text suggest, or on foes.

    Spoiler: Inspired Fight and Prolong Passion
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    Inspired Fight: At 1st level, a heartfire fanner with 11 ranks in Perform can ignite a martial passion even beyond the ken of normal bardic inspiration by stirring the hearts of warriors already heady with battle.

    This ability confers bonus feats upon an allied subject within 30 feet of the heartfire fanner. The target is free to choose which feats he receives from the feats the heartfire fanner possesses or the fighter class bonus feat list. The target must meet all prerequisites to receive the feats, although he can use one bonus feat as a prerequisite for another.

    The heartfire fanner bestows a number of bonus feats equal to the number indicated in Heartfire Fanner advancement table.

    For every three character levels the heartfire fanner has, he can bestow bonus feats to one additional creature. Each inspired creature may select her own feats. The heartfire fanner must perform his bardic music for round and the targets must hear him before they gain the bonus feats. The feats remain for as long as the heartfire fanner sings and for 5 rounds thereafter. This is a mind-affecting ability. Unlike other bardic songs, the heartfire fanner cannot use this ability on himself; he can only inspire others with it. Inspired fight is considered bardic music, so using this ability takes up one use of the heartfire fanner's bardic music ability for the day.The ability to grant allies floating feats cannot be understated in terms of resource conservation. If the bard can get access to a quick method of swapping their own feats around (Psychic Reformation comes to mind, but it's probably inaccessible and has a 10-minute manifesting time regardless), this could add a lot of adaptability to the party; even without relevant feats on the bard, the ability to grant floating Martial Study adds so much versatility to the party composition.

    Prolonged Passion: At 5th level, a heartfire fanner with 13 ranks in Perform learns not only to inspire passionate emotion in others, but also masters the art of blending his music to amplify his allies' existing passions.

    This use of bardic music inspires one target within 30 feet of the heartfire fanner, and one additional target for every three heartfire fanner and bard levels the character possesses.

    The duration of any one spell, or any one extraordinary, supernatural, or spell-like ability effecting the targets of prolonged passion is increased by round per point of Charisma bonus of the heartfire fanner. The target of prolonged passion chooses which effect to extend when the heartfire fanner uses the ability. Thus, a raging barbarian targeted with prolonged passion by a fanner with a Charisma of 18 could rage for an additional 4 rounds, and a fighter under the effects of a haste spell would retain the benefits of that spell for an additional 4 rounds. Likewise, the effects of another type of bardic music (such as inspire courage) can be extended.

    Only creatures currently under the effects of an effect with a duration can gain any benefit of prolonged passion. If the extended effect ends prematurely (through dispel magic, for example), prolonged passion no longer has any effect.

    The heartfire fanner must perform for round and be heard by his targets for the song to take effect. Prolonged passion is a mind-affecting ability. Prolonged passion is considered bardic music, so using this ability takes up one use of the heartfire fanner's bardic music for the day. The heartfire fanner cannot target himself with this ability. Prolong ally buffs, prolong enemy debuffs; this ability is probably as good as your party, although I'd imagine when combined with Melodic Casting, there is a strong option for bards to prolong otherwise shorter spell-effects on enemies.


    Seeker of the Song: Grants a million abilities (actually 17). Only one is mind-affecting, however. This allows the Seeker to cause any creature that can hear them performing to need to make a concentration effect when casting spells, or else lose the spell and have no effect. This is what countersong wants to be, and given that eventually casters are the best of the best, this may be one of the best options available to an epic bard. The bard need only keep it playing at all times for what amounts to a limited, but selective AMF.

    Spoiler: Hymn of Spelldeath
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    A seeker of the song of 6th level or higher with 19 or more ranks in a Perform skill can turn the power of the primal music against magic effects. Any creature that can hear the seeker perform must make a Concentration check opposed by the seeker?s Perform check in order to cast a spell. If the Concentration check fails, the spell is lost and has no effect. If the Concentration check succeeds, the spell is cast as normal. A hymn of spelldeath is a mind-affecting ability. Anti-casting on any enemy that can hear the speaker seems powerful enough, but combine it with Subsonics so that it works on enemies that cannot hear it for maximum effect. This seems like one of the highest-OP uses of the ability, and I'd think it puts Seeker of the Song in as a mandatory inclusion. As if that weren't enough, you can use an extra use as a Dispel Magic centered on the Seeker, and gets extra action-economy from the Seeker's Combine Songs and Subvocalize class features.


    Troubadour of Stars: Play music that requires a fixed DC for evil creatures to cast spells or use SLAs, or inspire hope (+2 to saves, attacks, ability checks, skill checks, damage, extra save against fear and despair, and use the perform check instead of the save against fear and despair if the perform is higher), or copy a holy word spell. The holy word ability is probably the most valuable one here, but your caster level is limited to your class level, and given you can't take this class from level 1, only being able to use is on HD9 or less creatures is super underwhelming.

    War Chanter: War chanter's signature abilities actually aren't morale effects or mind-affecting. The only music this class grants you that benefits from Music of the Gods is Inspire Recklessness, which lets you buff one ally to be able to trade our AC up to their BAB to add it to their attack roll s for a round. Damage is fine, but again, this is a little underwhelming, especially as it only affects one enemy.

    Warrior Skald: Cure fatigue, or cause enemies to be shaken, or make people get some benefits of the Endurance feat, or give a bunch of buffs to one or more allies (+4 to attacks, damage, saves, and AC), or cause enemies to be frightened, or cause enemies to be panicked, or buff allies with barbarian rage. The ability to render foes panicked is definitely the best option here, as it ends an encounter. It works on any enemy within 20 feet, and requires a will save of 10 + skald levels + cha, so a bloodline and cha-buffing can raise the DC a bit, but the DC will always be pretty low compared to the other options that use a perform check. It is still notable though!

    Spoiler: Words of Panic
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    A 9th-level warrior skald's oratory is so frightening that few can withstand it. Once they've heard the warrior skald for a full round, opponents within 20 feet must succeed on a Will save (DC 10 + warrior skald levels + Cha bonus) or be panicked (-2 morale penalty on saves, and creature flees or cowers, dropping items) as long as the warrior skald continues to recite and for 5 rounds thereafter. This is a mind-affecting, language-dependent ability that counts as three daily uses of bardic music. Panicked creatures are completely neutralized. However, the 20-foot range makes this... situational. Additionally, the limited DC makes this less useful than other abilities. This is probably better than the Dirgesinger's ability, given it ramps folks all the way up to panicked and adds charisma, but the limited range makes it debatable.


    Courageous Rally: Build an anti-fear feature into your bardic music! ... except that, if you want Music of the Gods to be useful here, that makes this specifically and only useful against the victims of a Dread Witch, I'm pretty sure.

    Dragonfire Inspiration: Do lots of damage! Useful in low-OP campaigns where you have access to epic feats (or if you have undead or plant party members), but there are typically better ways to dispatch enemies than damage by the time you're optimizing to bypass immunities. Notable, however.

    Inspire Spellpower: Increase your allies' caster levels by 1! It's a notable way to help your party members who are not in melee, although I'm not sure how many scenarios exist where this is the optimal music to use.

    Music of the Outer Spheres: The debuff modes don't benefit from Music of the Gods, but it does let you buff the DCs and AC of allied aberrations who are otherwise immune to mind-affecting effects. The DCs-mode might make this useful on a cohort, although cohorts with epic feats may be few and far between.

    Warning Shout: As an immediate action, grant a single aly a +5 to a reflex save and Evasion, as of the monk class feature, until your next turn or until they make a reflex save. This mode is somewhat relevant, but still not high-OP. On the other hand, unlike the other modes included here, this only has a loose case to count as bardic music, as it consumes bardic music charges, but does not explicitly count as or expand bardic music.

    Lyric Spell: With the weakest case to work so far, this would be the strongest option if it did work, allowing all the bard's mind-affecting spells to bypass an immunity to mind-affecting. However, like Warning Shout, it is not explicitly bardic music, and unlike Warning Shout, it is explicitly said to count as a spellcasting action (which may or may not preclude it from counting as a "bardic music" action). If you can swing this at a DM's table, this with Sublime Chord, perhaps theurged with Ur Priest using Fochulan Lyricist, is probably your best option, but this is shaky RAW/RAI at best.


    Early-Game Class and Feat Selection

    The ability to deny enemy spellcasting (unless they beat our absurd perform check with a concentration check) seems too valuable to give up, especially when combined with the Subsonics feat to explicitly prevent them from identifying the source of the problem if you don't have a visual component to your performance (such as using your perform: sing to hum). This is a unique ability that disables a lot of enemy archetypes, and provides a lot of protection from traditional high-OP scry-and-die tactics. Therefore, we will necessarily want to include 6 levels of Seeker of the Song in any build. Seeker requires Skill Focus: Perform, and unfortunately the PrC is from Complete Arcane, so there's no getting around using it for our level 3 feat.

    We could then follow this sort of simple progression for a build to rush access to the Hymn of Spelldeath:

    Level Class Feat Key Feature/Note
    1 Bard Dragonwrought Gain Bardic Music, Bardic Knowledge, Countersong, Fascinate, Inspire Courage, and level 0 spellcasting.
    2 Bard - Gain level 1 spellcasting.
    3 Bard Skill Focus: Perform Gain Inspire Competence.Polymorph/Psychic Reformation use to get 30 Perform, 13 Knowledge (Arcana).
    4 Seeker of the Song - Gain +2 AC when performing, Seeker Music, and Burning Melody. Niche defensive option, but great offensive option.
    5 Seeker of the Song - Gain use of two musics at once to double our relevant action-economy. Song of Unmaking lets us bully constructs, but not much else.
    6 Seeker of the Song Subsonics Gain Dirge of Frozen Loss. Another niche defensive option, but strong offensive one that adds some BFC elements.
    7 Seeker of the Song - Gain +2 to saves while performing, Song of Life. Strong option for addressing disease and poison, plus massive single-target healing.
    8 Seeker of the Song - Gain the ability to start a second bardic music as a swift action, Anthem of Thunder and Pain. Despite the dramatic name, it is again a niche defensive option followed by a strong offensive option.
    9 Seeker of the Song Music of the Gods Gain Hymn of Spelldeath. Enemies are largely prevented from casting spells, and you can area dispel magic using bardic music (and exclude allies from the effect).

    By level 9, we can stymie enemy magic, dispel ongoing effects, deal a lot of damage, protect ourselves and the party, heal enormously, and cure disease/poison, along with normal bardic fascinate/courage. This leaves us with a lot to contribute to social situations and combat, but in exchange we've delayed access to level 2 and 3 spells (well, all levels of spells, but specifically these by level 9), Suggestion, and Inspire Greatness. As such, it would probably be wise to add at least one level of Heartfire Fanner in. The remaining levels of Seeker are relatively underwhelming (use of bardic music to TP only ourselves short distances, interfere with nearby enemy bards, another blast attack, and use of bardic music to banish extraplanar creatures), so we could add it in at level 10 (delaying Music of the Gods so that we can take Negotiator to meet the prerequisite, and then Psychic Reformation it back).

    Mid-Game Class and Feat Selection

    Following reaching the Hymn of Spelldeath, we have some options.

    • We can try to scramble to reach worthwhile casting ability to provide wider versatility
    • We can try to expand on our synergies with Music of the Gods and expand our bardic music

    With regard to the former, our best bet might be to take three more levels in a bardic casting class (effective level 7 Bard spellcasting), to qualify for Sublime Chord at level 14. We'd still be able to reach 8th level spells by level 20, which is not great, but it brings us back up to par with normal bardic spell progression -- and then exceeds it a bit at the end. Planning for this, we might actually see a progression along this path:

    Spoiler: Bardic Spellcaster
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    Level Class Feat Key Feature/Note
    1 Bardic Sage Dragonwrought Gain Bardic Music, Bardic Knowledge, Countersong, Fascinate, Inspire Courage, 10 divination spells, and level 0 spellcasting.
    2 Bardic Sage - Gain level 1 spellcasting.
    3 Bardic Sage Skill Focus: Perform Gain Inspire Competence.Polymorph/Psychic Reformation use to get 30 Perform, 13 Knowledge (Arcana). Trade Inspire Competence for Soothe the Beast
    4 Seeker of the Song - Gain +2 AC when performing, Seeker Music, and Burning Melody. Niche defensive option, but great offensive option.
    5 Seeker of the Song - Gain use of two musics at once to double our relevant action-economy. Song of Unmaking lets us bully constructs, but not much else.
    6 Seeker of the Song Subsonics Gain Dirge of Frozen Loss. Another niche defensive option, but strong offensive one that adds some BFC elements.
    7 Seeker of the Song - Gain +2 to saves while performing, Song of Life. Strong option for addressing disease and poison, plus massive single-target healing.
    8 Seeker of the Song - Gain the ability to start a second bardic music as a swift action, Anthem of Thunder and Pain. Despite the dramatic name, it is again a niche defensive option followed by a strong offensive option.
    9 Seeker of the Song Negotiator Gain Hymn of Spelldeath. Enemies are largely prevented from casting spells, and you can area dispel magic using bardic music (and exclude allies from the effect).
    10 Heartfire Fanner Psychic Reformation Negotiator into Versatile Spellcaster Gain Inspired Fight, Bardic Musics known, use of musics up through Inspire Greatness, and level 2 spells
    11 Sublime Chord Psychic Reformation Versatile Spellcaster into Melodic Casting Gain level 4 and 5 spells
    12 Sublime Chord Music of the Gods Gain Song of Arcane Power, use of Song of Freedom

    We can maintain our Song of Spelldeath to interfere with enemy casters, use Subsonics to hide the fact that we are playing bardic music in the first place, and use Melodic Casting to use our spells to resolve problems simultaneously. Add in the Swift Concentration skill trick at some point to allow us to use concentration spells while using bardic music, too. We oddly don't get level 3 spells known (except our divination spell) or any level 3 spellslots, but we do get spells all the way up to 9ths at level 19, only two levels later than the wizard!


    With regard to the latter, we could transition into Dirgesinger for the confusion and animate dead abilities, but the time these come online, they will be a little lackluster. Instead, let's set an ambitious goal: use bardic Fascinate and Suggestion on a greater deity to have them do us a few favors; perhaps voluntarily handing over all their divine ranks could be in the cards. I've written on this challenge in the past, but looking back on it, I realize I made a series of RAW errors that invalidated much of the discussion, and overlooked a few key options.

    Deities and Divine Ranks

    Canonically, deities will visit a bard achieving unnaturally high performance checks; the perform skill's description details that extraplanar beings will begin paying attention to you with a DC 30 check, let alone once you start getting over 100. If you can make your career as a bard crucial to the future moves of dragons in the Xorvintaal game (namely Chorranathau or Morlicantha), deities won't even be warned about your plans via their portfolio sense, leaving you with the perfect lure.

    The first step towards subverting a deity is to pick a mark. Of the greater deities, the lowest will save belongs to Hades with a surprisingly paltry +39. However, Music of the Gods will effectively raise this to 49, and then we must account for a greater deity's "Always Maximize Roll."

    Spoiler: Always Maximize Roll
    Show
    Always Maximize Roll: Greater deities (rank 16–20) automatically
    get the best result possible on any check, saving throw, attack
    roll, or damage roll. Calculate success, failure, or other effects
    accordingly. For instance, when a greater deity makes an attack
    roll, assume you rolled a 20 and calculate success or failure from
    there. You should roll the d20 anyway and use that roll to check for
    a threat of a critical hit.

    This quality means that greater deities never need the Maximize
    Spell feat, because their spells have maximum effect already
    At first glance, one might think this means that greater deity's auto-pass their saves, but this is not so. As we can see, greater deities are not treated as having rolled a natural 20 as a result of this ability. For example, if a deity were to attack someone, they are prompted to roll for the threat of a critical hit; this would be irrelevant if their "maximized roll" were treated as a natural 20, as that would automatically threaten a critical hit. We also see that it prompts the reader to calculate success, failure, or other effects based on this maximized roll; this would be an odd wording with regard to damage, attack rolls, and saving throws if deities had automatic successes.

    Instead, it seems that we are meant to add the maximum value of the die roll into the calculation, then actually roll the die in the event of an attack roll. RAI, we might assume that we would also roll for saving throws to check for nat 20s, but we are not actually prompted to do so; by RAW, greater deities seem to actually denied the opportunity to roll their saves. Based on this, if we can raise our DCs to their will save + 10 (Music of the Gods) + 20 (Always Maximize Roll), they should fail the save 100% of the time.


    Thus, we need a DC of 70 in order to overcome Hades' will save. The DC for Suggestion will always be lower than the DC for Fascinate, so we will focus on that.

    Suggestion's DC follows the formula 10 + 1/2 bard levels + charisma bonus. After some research, I think I found that the highest charisma we can achieve by level 12 in this build would be around 115 (slightly higher, but we settle there), albeit with WBL abuse (using an artificer cohort).

    Spoiler: 121 Charisma
    Show
    18 base
    4 (22) Phrenic template
    2 (24) Magic-Blooded template
    2 (26) Unseeley Fey template
    3 (29) Age
    1 (30) Bloodline
    3 (33) Leveling bonuses
    5 (38) Wishes (inherent)

    1 (39) Worm of Minauros
    1 (40) Pact Insidious
    3 (43) Fiend of Corruption

    4 (47) Command item (competence)
    2 (49) Mertoran Leaf (alchemic)

    Staff:
    5 (54) Maximized Transfusion
    4 (58) Visage of the Deity, Greater
    4 (62) Snowsong (morale)
    4 (66) Righteous Aura (sacred)
    8 (74) Nixie's Grace (enhancement)
    5 (79) Maximized Devil's Ego (profane)
    Spoiler: 42 (121) Artificer Infusions (various)
    Show
    Level 10 Artificers may use Item Alteration on +6 Items of Charisma to change the bonus type granted to help them stack with one another; there is no limitation on the type of bonus it may be changed to, save that it can't deal with dodge, profane, or sacred bonuses. This leaves: size, shield, resistance, racial, natural armor, luck, insight, deflection, circumstance, and armor.

    Artificers get 2 level 4 infusions at level 10, and can get one more for each Ring of Master Artifice they wear (with the Extra Rings feat, this will be 4). Finally, the artificer can gain bonus infusions based on their Int. Thus, the artificer will have between 2 and 10 infusions that day; making no assumptions about their intelligence beyond having an 18, we will grant at least 7 infusions to this exercise, using shield, size, resistance, racial, luck, insight, and circumstance.


    This leaves us with 65 + 1/2 levels.

    For levels, we had three levels of bard (3, +3 from our Bloodline). Our two levels in Heartfire Fanner stack with that to determine the strength of our bardic music (2, +3 from our Bloodline, cumulative 11), bringing us up to 70, which just hits the mark.

    However, we have one more hurdle: Fascinate and Suggestion are SLAs, and so are subject to spell resistance. Hades has SR 49 (whew), and we've given up a lot of caster levels already. Assay Spell Resistance won't be enough to help us here, and Supernatural Transformation only works on "innate" SLAs, so it's shaky RAW to use it here. Fortunately, there is a silver-bullet: the often overlooked Marshal class. With a one-level dip, we can get a minor aura "Determined Caster" to add our charisma to our rolls to overcome spell resistance. Thus, our normal caster level of approximately 10 becomes an automatic success. The build, then, would necessarily look something like this:

    Spoiler: Bardic Musician
    Show
    Level Class Feat Key Feature/Note
    1 Bard Dragonwrought Gain Bardic Music, Bardic Knowledge, Countersong, Fascinate, Inspire Courage, and level 0 spellcasting.
    2 Bard - Gain level 1 spellcasting.
    3 Bard Skill Focus: Perform, Gain Inspire Competence.Polymorph/Psychic Reformation use to get 30 Perform, 13 Knowledge (Arcana).
    4 Seeker of the Song - Gain +2 AC when performing, Seeker Music, and Burning Melody. Niche defensive option, but great offensive option.
    5 Seeker of the Song - Gain use of two musics at once to double our relevant action-economy. Song of Unmaking lets us bully constructs, but not much else.
    6 Seeker of the Song Subsonics Gain Dirge of Frozen Loss. Another niche defensive option, but strong offensive one that adds some BFC elements.
    7 Seeker of the Song - Gain +2 to saves while performing, Song of Life. Strong option for addressing disease and poison, plus massive single-target healing.
    8 Seeker of the Song - Gain the ability to start a second bardic music as a swift action, Anthem of Thunder and Pain. Despite the dramatic name, it is again a niche defensive option followed by a strong offensive option.
    9 Seeker of the Song Negotiator Gain Hymn of Spelldeath. Enemies are largely prevented from casting spells, and you can area dispel magic using bardic music (and exclude allies from the effect).
    10 Heartfire Fanner Psychic Reformation Negotiator into Leadership Gain Inspired Fight, Bardic Musics known, use of bardic music up through Inspire Greatness, and level 2 spells
    11 Heartfire Fanner - Gain Magic Flair
    12 Marshal Music of the Gods, Skill Focus: Diplomacy Gain Determined Caster

    Following this, the character should have divine ranks, so everything else is negligible. If the character levels before gaining divine ranks, I suppose following the prior caster progression would be best, going into Lyric Thaumaturge and then Sublime Chord.


    In conclusion...

    JaronK describes a T2 class as:

    Tier 2: Has as much raw power as the Tier 1 classes, but can't pull off nearly as many tricks, and while the class itself is capable of anything, no one build can actually do nearly as much as the Tier 1 classes. Still potentially campaign smashers by using the right abilities, but at the same time are more predictable and can't always have the right tool for the job. If the Tier 1 classes are countries with 10,000 nuclear weapons in their arsenal, these guys are countries with 10 nukes. Still dangerous and easily world shattering, but not in quite so many ways. Note that the Tier 2 classes are often less flexible than Tier 3 classes... it's just that their incredible potential power overwhelms their lack in flexibility.
    Music of the Gods seems to enable bards to be T2 in my opinion. Following the Bardic Spellcaster build, we maintain every strength from the base class of bards (such as spellcasting, plus extra spell slots and spells known), expand the situations where bardic music can be used (including much-needed direct combat power), and avoid many of the pitfalls associated with bardic music (immunities). Additionally, bards can secretly restrict the options of enemies around the clock while still accessing their other music and their spells; notably, this should include epic spells as well, I think, based on the wording of the class feature. Regardless, I hope this was at all as interesting to read as it was to research and write!
    Last edited by Doctor Despair; 2020-09-23 at 11:45 AM. Reason: Revising and Refining, adding bardic sage for early-entry to Sublime Chord
    Quote Originally Posted by eggynack View Post
    What I care about here, though, is that the highest standard of pedantry is upheld.
    Level 6 Dread Necromancers can start the apocalypse
    Level 12 Bards can counter T1 spellcasters and kill Greater Deities

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    RogueGuy

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    Default Re: How Far Can We Optimize Bardic Music Using Music of the Gods?

    Be a petitioner fron the house of knowledge and you can keep all of your perform skill ranks I think. Then go spellscale to get rid of petitioner traits but don't recalculate skill points.

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    Default Re: How Far Can We Optimize Bardic Music?

    I know nothing and this gave me alot of everything.
    What I would like to ask is a low-mid-high level encounter example in relation to this would flow?
    Last edited by 123456789; 2020-09-22 at 08:18 AM. Reason: adding

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    Default Re: How Far Can We Optimize Bardic Music?

    It seems dubious that it is possible to qualify for this class, and for a feat that requires epic-level skill ranks, at level 3.
    Polymorph/Psychic Reformation use to get 30 Perform, 13 Knowledge (Arcana).
    Can you explain how this works (it might be common knowledge to some here, but I don't know this trick, so can't see how you can have the requisite skill ranks at level 3, breaking the max ranks/level rule).
    Quote Originally Posted by danielxcutter View Post
    This. This sooooo much. I wasn't expecting *two* thread wins from you.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hiro Quester View Post
    Hello Gishes! Look at your sword. Now look at Thunderlance… Sadly, your sword isn't a Thunderlance.
    Spoiler: Avatar & Iron Chef Awards
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    Gnome Avatar Bard by Iruka. A detailed version is here.
    Iron Chef awards:
    IC C Swiftblade: Honorable Mention for Pahika Kanikani, the Wardancer
    IC CII Blade Dancer: Silver for Hu Tiaowu, the Jungle Guardian

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    Default Re: How Far Can We Optimize Bardic Music?

    Quote Originally Posted by 123456789 View Post
    I know nothing and this gave me alot of everything.
    What I would like to ask is a low-mid-high level encounter example in relation to this would flow?
    I'll write this up soon; things are crazy at work this week.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hiro Quester View Post
    It seems dubious that it is possible to qualify for this class, and for a feat that requires epic-level skill ranks, at level 3.
    It definitely took some doing to find a way for it to work! :)

    Quote Originally Posted by Hiro Quester View Post
    Can you explain how this works (it might be common knowledge to some here, but I don't know this trick, so can't see how you can have the requisite skill ranks at level 3, breaking the max ranks/level rule).
    I do explain it in the post, actually

    Spoiler: Quote
    Show
    Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Despair View Post
    Music of the Gods also requires that you have 30 ranks in Perform. Normally, that would mean that you would need to be level 27 to select the feat, but as with the requirement to be level 21 or higher, there are ways to satisfy this requirement early. For example, the Primary Contact feat would allow a character to exceed their maximum skill rank by 1, although that is woefully insufficient for this job. Likewise, taking three Bloodline levels can raise your maximum skill cap by 3, which falls a little shy of the 30 ranks we need to achieve, but is a step in the right direction. The most significant way to raise your skill ranks past their normal maximum, however, is by using temporary hit dice.

    There are a variety of ways to gain temporary hit dice, and when they expire, there are no game rules written that remove skill ranks you've expended beyond your new, lower maximum. Indeed, with the Primary Contact feat, there is precedent for legally having skill ranks beyond your maximum without issue. Some common sources of temporary hit dice are:

    * Inspire Greatness, a bardic music, ironically enough, that grants 2 bonus hit dice, which can be increased with the feats Song of the Heart and Words of Creation to grant 6 bonus hit dice

    * Contracting one or more strains of Lycanthropy, which grants the relevant animal hit dice for each strain (sadly, not applicable to dragons)

    * Using the Polymorph spell (or a similar effect) to take the form of a Dusk Giant (Heroes of Horror), gaining their extraordinary Cannibalize special attack. Cannibalize, among other things, allows Dusk Giants to consume 20HD of nonsentient living creatures (take your pick of defenseless creatures like chickens, or perhaps a can of worms) to gain 1 hit dice. They can do this until they reach 24HD, and the HD fade at a rate of 1/day, assuming they don't vanish when the Polymorph ends and you lose the ability, or can be drained off by a handy negative-level-inducing undead.


    Combining the Polymorph-method with three levels of a Bloodline (or even just one use of Inspire Greatness) would leave us with a maximum skill rank of 30 or higher. If we can maintain this for long enough, we could use the retraining rules to load all the skillpoints we gained at our most recent level, but the easier method is to use the psionic power Psychic Reformation to shuffle our skillpoints around to their desired locations.
    Last edited by Doctor Despair; 2020-09-23 at 11:31 AM.
    Quote Originally Posted by eggynack View Post
    What I care about here, though, is that the highest standard of pedantry is upheld.
    Level 6 Dread Necromancers can start the apocalypse
    Level 12 Bards can counter T1 spellcasters and kill Greater Deities

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: How Far Can We Optimize Bardic Music?

    It seems to me that if step one of your plan is "get 30 skill ranks by level 3", step two of your plan should be "Diplomancy everyone into being your slave" or "UMD Staves of Holy Word to win all encounters with no save", not "take a random PrC and get access to an Epic Feat that isn't Epic Spellcasting".

    Basically, you seem to have demonstrated that once you break the game the game is, in fact, broken. But I have no idea what that's supposed to have to do with Bards in any important sense.
    Last edited by NigelWalmsley; 2020-09-23 at 01:46 PM.

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    Default Re: How Far Can We Optimize Bardic Music?

    Quote Originally Posted by NigelWalmsley View Post
    It seems to me that if step one of your plan is "get 30 skill ranks by level 3", step two of your plan should be "Diplomancy everyone into being your slave" or "UMD Staves of Holy Word to win all encounters with no save", not "take a random PrC and get access to an Epic Feat that isn't Epic Spellcasting".

    Basically, you seem to have demonstrated that once you break the game the game is, in fact, broken. But I have no idea what that's supposed to have to do with Bards in any important sense.
    Diplomancering has always been an option even without 30 skill ranks, and by trivial-ly early levels when you bind Naberius. I suppose it is subject to circumstantial modifiers by a DM though, to be fair.

    UMDing high-level spells likewise requires you get access to items with those spells, which wouldn't be available by WBL before a later level -- even if you take an Artificer, I'd imagine. Eventually, sure, but you can UMD on this build regardless, as it's charisma-focused.

    Epic Spellcasting requires the ability to cast 9ths, and while I'm sure there are ways to cheese that into early game with some combination using Heighten Spell, it requires a bit more than just getting skillranks. Regardless, it's already established that epic spellcasting is strong; I'm not interested in building or playing a character with it.

    Not for nothing, the use of Subsonics and Song of Spelldeath can prevent the casting of spells (and presumably even epic spells), while the shift into Sublime Chord at level 11 means we retain almost full spellcasting (up to 9ths at level 20) that can be used with Melodic Casting. That is powerful, but isn't comparable to the utility that the layered contingent spells a wizard will have by the same level offer. Even with all this optimization on the table, I still don't think it brings bards up beyond tier 2 -- which just goes to show how vast the gap is between T1 and T3 classes.

    The reason this is built from a bard chassis is because that was the premise of the post. I like bards, and I wanted to see how far bardic music could be optimized -- not how far a hypothetical character of any class could be optimized. It was interesting to piece together.
    Quote Originally Posted by eggynack View Post
    What I care about here, though, is that the highest standard of pedantry is upheld.
    Level 6 Dread Necromancers can start the apocalypse
    Level 12 Bards can counter T1 spellcasters and kill Greater Deities

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    Default Re: How Far Can We Optimize Bardic Music?

    Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Despair View Post
    Even with all this optimization on the table, I still don't think it brings bards up beyond tier 2 -- which just goes to show how vast the gap is between T1 and T3 classes.
    It doesn't bring the Bard up at all, which is the point. If step one of your plan to break the game as a Bard is "do a class-agnostic thing that breaks the game", you haven't shown that the Bard breaks the game. If you just want to show how this cheese applies to Bards, that's fine. But the question of "what else could you do" is very relevant if you want to argue this has a meaningful impact on the power level of the Bard.

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    Default Re: How Far Can We Optimize Bardic Music?

    Even pre-epic, Perform (alphorn) could potentially buff a whole army.

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    Default Re: How Far Can We Optimize Bardic Music?

    Quote Originally Posted by NigelWalmsley View Post
    It doesn't bring the Bard up at all, which is the point. If step one of your plan to break the game as a Bard is "do a class-agnostic thing that breaks the game", you haven't shown that the Bard breaks the game. If you just want to show how this cheese applies to Bards, that's fine. But the question of "what else could you do" is very relevant if you want to argue this has a meaningful impact on the power level of the Bard.
    Yes, it's an early-access trick that anyone can access, but I don't think that invalidates its use for bards. If you want to consider the ceiling for bardic music, you necessarily have to take advantage of every resource you have in order to be thorough. Otherwise, you didn't explore the ceiling -- you just threw together stats on a post. My goal wasn't to show the ceiling for what early-access tricks can do, but thr ceiling for bardic music, as the title clearly states. I have no illusions that it's not preferable to get epic spellcasting if you can cheese 9ths by a low level -- but epic spellcasting isn't bardic music.
    Quote Originally Posted by eggynack View Post
    What I care about here, though, is that the highest standard of pedantry is upheld.
    Level 6 Dread Necromancers can start the apocalypse
    Level 12 Bards can counter T1 spellcasters and kill Greater Deities

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    Default Re: How Far Can We Optimize Bardic Music?

    Some things were unmentioned in the OP
    I wonder - how useful they may be?

    Spoiler: Classes
    Show
    Variant class:
    Harbinger (Dragon #337)

    ACF:
    Gnome Bard (Races of Stone)
    Half-Elf Bard (Races of Destiny)

    PrC:
    Battle Howler (Dragon #311)
    Divine Prankster (Races of Stone)
    Green Whisperer (Dragon #311)
    Halfling Whistler
    Icesinger (Dragon #314)
    Master Harper - 1-level dip to get +1 music/day
    Spellsinger (Races of Faerûn)
    Windsinger (Dragon #294)
    Worldspeaker (Dragon #311)
    Spoiler: Feats
    Show
    Blasphemous Utterance (Dragon #336)
    Chaos Music (Dragon #326)
    Courageous Rally (Heroes of Battle)
    Deafening Song
    Divine Inspiration (Dragon #333)
    Focused Performance (Dragon #338)
    Focused Performer (Dragon #338)
    Haunting Melody (Eberron Campaign Setting)
    Hindering Song
    Inspire Excellence
    Music of Growth (Eberron Campaign Setting)
    Music of Making (Eberron Campaign Setting)
    Sacred Performer (Dragon #357)
    Song of the Heart (Eberron Campaign Setting)
    Soothe the Beast (Eberron Campaign Setting)
    Talfirian Song (Races of Faerûn)
    Undertone of Heresy (Dragon #336)

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    Default Re: How Far Can We Optimize Bardic Music?

    Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Despair View Post
    Yes, it's an early-access trick that anyone can access, but I don't think that invalidates its use for bards.
    Not at all. But the fact that everyone can do it means it doesn't effect the Bard's position in a relative ranking, such as the tiers. Yes, you can build a Bard that does this and gets to do stuff that is super powerful. But also you can build a Rogue or a Marshal that does this and gets to do stuff that is as powerful or more so. So it can't make the Bard T2, any more than their access to Candles of Invocation could do that.

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    Default Re: How Far Can We Optimize Bardic Music?

    Quote Originally Posted by NigelWalmsley View Post
    Not at all. But the fact that everyone can do it means it doesn't effect the Bard's position in a relative ranking, such as the tiers. Yes, you can build a Bard that does this and gets to do stuff that is super powerful. But also you can build a Rogue or a Marshal that does this and gets to do stuff that is as powerful or more so. So it can't make the Bard T2, any more than their access to Candles of Invocation could do that.
    I'm not so sure that you could build a Rogue or Bard to do stuff this powerful or more so, but I'd be interested to see it. Being able to shut off tier one casters and collect Divine Ranks while still being a playable character seems pretty significant.

    Quote Originally Posted by ShurikVch View Post
    Some things were unmentioned in the OP
    I wonder - how useful they may be?

    Spoiler: Classes
    Show
    Variant class:
    Harbinger (Dragon #337)

    ACF:
    Gnome Bard (Races of Stone)
    Half-Elf Bard (Races of Destiny)

    PrC:
    Battle Howler (Dragon #311)
    Divine Prankster (Races of Stone)
    Green Whisperer (Dragon #311)
    Halfling Whistler
    Icesinger (Dragon #314)
    Master Harper - 1-level dip to get +1 music/day
    Spellsinger (Races of Faerûn)
    Windsinger (Dragon #294)
    Worldspeaker (Dragon #311)
    Spoiler: Feats
    Show
    Blasphemous Utterance (Dragon #336)
    Chaos Music (Dragon #326)
    Courageous Rally (Heroes of Battle)
    Deafening Song
    Divine Inspiration (Dragon #333)
    Focused Performance (Dragon #338)
    Focused Performer (Dragon #338)
    Haunting Melody (Eberron Campaign Setting)
    Hindering Song
    Inspire Excellence
    Music of Growth (Eberron Campaign Setting)
    Music of Making (Eberron Campaign Setting)
    Sacred Performer (Dragon #357)
    Song of the Heart (Eberron Campaign Setting)
    Soothe the Beast (Eberron Campaign Setting)
    Talfirian Song (Races of Faerûn)
    Undertone of Heresy (Dragon #336)
    Well now, I'm not sure how I overlooked all that. Let me take a look...


    Spoiler: Classes
    Show
    Class Brief Write-Up
    Harbinger Early debuffs don't seem like they scale very well, but interestingly the late abilities seem somewhat powerful. Somewhat like the Dirgesinger's Song of Grief, the harbinger can inflict cowering upon targets within 30-feet. That could be powerful, to be sure; that it doesn't come online until level 9 is disheartening, however. Further abilities are interesting (and not mind-affecting), inflicting either paralysis or two negative levels upon enemies. It seems like it could be fun to play with, but I'm not sure the level/payoff is worth it for an early-access build.
    Gnome Bard Not to discredit the abilities, but strictly looking for late-game utility and synergy with Music of the Gods, I'm not sure this is helpful. Maybe there's a combination of music we could use for a fear-inspiring build using Phantasmal Song? At that point, we may want to consider using a Dread Witch instead though.
    Half-Elf Bard Soothing Voice seems good, albeit not particularly synergistic with Music of the Gods. Command would be good, but I'm not certain it counts as bardic music; it arguably only consumes bardic music charges, as it isn't explicitly called out as an expansion of bardic music. The Command would be pretty nice otherwise.
    Battle Howler I'd looked at this before, actually, and for thoroughness I should have referenced it, but it doesn't expand bardic music at all. :/ It does stack with all other classes to determine bardic music strength/uses though, which is interesting.
    Divine Prankster While the abilities are interesting and flavorful, they aren't bardic music; they just stack with bardic music for uses each day.
    Green Whisperer Stacks for bardic music strength/uses, but doesn't give us any new music. It gives Green Ear as a bonus feat after 5 levels, but Music of the Gods renders that obsolete.
    Halfling Whistler This one actually never references bardic music or bards, unless it was updated from the version I'm seeing.
    Icesinger I'm not seeing text that has the new Icesinger "songs" count as additional bardic musics, but fortunately none of them seem to scale particularly well.
    Master Harper Doesn't seem to expand our arsenal of songs, although as noted it does give one extra use. I'm not sure it's worth the dip though.
    Spellsinger Immediately, I'm seeing the Spellsinger's ability to add their class levels to bardic fascinate/suggestion DCs. That could be helpful for the deity-music-build. Amplified music is also interesting for the purposes of the Hymn of Spelldeath, but keeping it five levels deep makes that one harder to justify. This might be worth a one-level dip if we can ditch the Improved Counterspell afterward! :)
    Windsinger I actually can't find this class. I see a feat by that name, but not a class. :(
    Worldspeaker Stacks to determine the strength and uses of bardic music, which is nice. Gets tongues 1/day, animal speech at will, plant speech 3/day, stone tell 1/day, elemental speech 1/day, and speak with dead 1/day... but no new musics. I don't think this is worth the dip, although it is flavorful.


    Spoiler: Feats
    Show
    Feat Brief Write-Up
    Blasphemous Utterance This does seem to expand our use of bardic music, actually, but the hit dice limit is disappointing. Panicked could be useful; shaken, less so.
    Chaos Music We currently have full bardic music progression, so I'm not sure this is useful here, but it does seem like a very nice feat in general. It could be useful for ditching Heartfire Fanner if ever we decide to do that.
    Courageous Rally I actually did discuss this one. It works with Music of the Gods, but doesn't seem very good.
    Deafening Song An epic feat, but it actually renders folks immune to our othe rmusics, which is... not great. As an upside, it could render our allies immune to our Hymn of Spelldeath, but some earplugs could probably do that, too. Reactive Countersong could be interesting along those lines, but I'm not sure we have room for either.
    Divine Inspiration Could be nice if we take levels in Cleric; that's about all I have to say on that.
    Focused Performance This is interesting. It mimics the effects of the Seeker's combine songs ability, or seemingly Melodic Casting (I think? Either it mimics Melodic Casting or it does literally nothing; I'm not sure), or you get an extra target with your music, or double the bonus or penalty on a single target (limited to types that are less interesting :/ ), or double the area affected (also limited to certain musics :/ ), or extend the lingering buff, or negate the requirement for line of sight for certain musics. It offers a lot of utility, but I'm not sure it's worth taking with a Seeker of the Song build. Maybe it would be if you didn't get the combine songs feature some other way. The two feat dip is pretty steep.
    Focused Performer Worse Melodic Casting. Only worth taking as a pre-req.
    Haunting Melody It doesn't look like this actually counts as bardic music, which is sad. Free shaken at will is pretty nice, but we can't waive the mind-affecting tag.
    Hindering Song Seems like a strictly worse version of the Hymn of Spell-Death, I'm sorry to say. Can exclude allies, which is a plus.
    Inspire Excellence I'm not sure this is worth the feat-dip. Maybe if it were untyped... Feats are so tight in this build.
    Music of Growth This is interesting, but probably only worth if you get it for free with Eberron bard.
    Music of Making Probably not useful for this build, although not necessarily an awful feat for certain builds, I'm sure, which want that duration.
    Sacred Performer Another theurge-feat for cleric bards. Not helpful here, but perhaps interesting for a multi-class character.
    Song of the Heart A strong option, and briefly used until I realized you can't take it as a bonus feat without 6 levels of bard. If only you could trade out Inspire Competence...
    Soothe the Beast Very nice, very flavorful, but not very late-game, haha. Useful for diplomancers who can't speak with animals.
    Talfirian Song Like lyric spell, this doesn't help our bardic music :/
    Undertone of Heresy Somehow, I have never heard of this feat, but this may be the best find yet, given it's twice the value we got out of Song of the Heart in terms of DCs. I'm not sure we can fit it in the 12 levels, but it is a very strong option.

    As a side-note, we also didn't really discuss Words of Creation, another core bard option, but I didn't discuss it as it's more helpful for buffing rather than the Music of the Gods applications we've been discussing.


    Standouts are Spellsinger, Undertones of Heresy, and Focused Performance, probably in that order.

    Replacing a level of Heartfire Fanner with Spellsinger buffs the DC a bit, bringing it up from 11 effective class levels to 14 (effective +2), and adding +1 for Compelling Song. That means we can ditch a use of Item Alteration, which is nice.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Despair View Post
    I'm not so sure that you could build a Rogue or Bard to do stuff this powerful or more so, but I'd be interested to see it. Being able to shut off tier one casters and collect Divine Ranks while still being a playable character seems pretty significant.
    It's the same basic trick as this build. So you go with something like Incarnate 1/Marshal 1 as your build. Pick a +Cha race so you get 20 Charisma. Take Motivate Charisma and the feat that gives a Soulmeld +1 capacity, then shape Mage's Spectacles. That gives you a UMD bonus of +48 (30 ranks +5 Charisma +5 Motivate Charisma +8 Mage's Spectacles). That, in turn, means your effective caster level when activating a Staff of Holy Word is 29 or more. Which means that you instantly kill anything with 19 or less hit dice (read: anything remotely level-appropriate for your 3rd level ass). You don't even have to break WBL to do this, because you get 900 GP for beating a 3rd level encounter and charges of Holy Word only cost you 682.5 GP.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NigelWalmsley View Post
    It's the same basic trick as this build. So you go with something like Incarnate 1/Marshal 1 as your build. Pick a +Cha race so you get 20 Charisma. Take Motivate Charisma and the feat that gives a Soulmeld +1 capacity, then shape Mage's Spectacles. That gives you a UMD bonus of +48 (30 ranks +5 Charisma +5 Motivate Charisma +8 Mage's Spectacles). That, in turn, means your effective caster level when activating a Staff of Holy Word is 29 or more. Which means that you instantly kill anything with 19 or less hit dice (read: anything remotely level-appropriate for your 3rd level ass). You don't even have to break WBL to do this, because you get 900 GP for beating a 3rd level encounter and charges of Holy Word only cost you 682.5 GP.
    Are there rules for partially charged staves in the same way there are for wands? And don't you use the crafter's caster level when using spells from items? Regardless, that makes you effective in combat, but does nothing outside of combat -- but I'll give that a pass, as you could get a staff of wish instead of holy word. Of note, you won't necessarily get the 700gp for every encounter; it depends on the encounters the DM writes up, and this is dependent on finding a wizard capable of casting 9ths who will make these items for you again and again -- or finding partially used items all over the place. That's more of a stretch than finding a wizard capable of casting a 5th, or a psion capable of casting a 4th

    Providing you do get the gold, and peoviding that you can find these items over and over, sure, that's very effective at lower levels. Of course, if you don't get the gold, or can't find the items, the entire character concept falls apart. However, I'm still not convinced it's as powerful as the buffed Hymn of Spelldeath, or getting divine ranks, but that it's online earlier is definitely important to consider. These are unique effects that bards get access to.

    With that said, again, I was not trying to show that bards are better than any other concept at any other breakpoint. I was seeing how far we can optimize bardic music. Arguably, if you use this trick to UMD 9ths and nothing else, you've made yourself a worse wizard, not a better marshal, or a better rogue, or insert X. Bards, while maintaining strict fidelity to their iconic class feature, can do all that is described in the OP -- and that ceiling, I feel, better fits the description of T2 than T3. Even if a wizard or someone pretending to be a wizard would be more effective at some benchmarks -- that's the point. Wizards are T1 -- the otpimal choice will always be "just play a wizard."
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Despair View Post
    Are there rules for partially charged staves in the same way there are for wands? And don't you use the crafter's caster level when using spells from items?
    You use the crafter's caster level for everything but staffs. The cost thing doesn't really matter, because you can just UMD Scrolls of Fabricate to make the money if you really need to.

    Regardless, that makes you effective in combat, but does nothing outside of combat -- but I'll give that a pass, as you could get a staff of wish instead of holy word.
    Your Diplomacy check is about as good, considering synergy bonuses, so outside combat you can turn anyone you meet Helpful.

    Of note, you won't necessarily get the 700gp for every encounter; it depends on the encounters the DM writes up, and this is dependent on finding a wizard capable of casting 9ths who will make these items for you again and again -- or finding partially used items all over the place. That's more of a stretch than finding a wizard capable of casting a 5th, or a psion capable of casting a 4th
    No DM is going to allow 30 skill ranks at 3rd level but not buying items. It's like saying that you can totally do Chain Binding to get an infinite Efreet army, but that you won't be allowed to start from a Candle of Invocation rather than a casting of Planar Binding.

    and that ceiling, I feel, better fits the description of T2 than T3.
    No, it doesn't. The ceiling you are describing is lower than what a couple of T4 classes can do at a lower level. Yes, you can get Divine Ranks. But so what? At a high enough CL, Holy Word (or equivalents) still kills you with no save. If this trick makes the Bard T2, the tier system has lost all meaning.

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    Default Re: How Far Can We Optimize Bardic Music?

    Quote Originally Posted by NigelWalmsley View Post
    You use the crafter's caster level for everything but staffs. The cost thing doesn't really matter, because you can just UMD Scrolls of Fabricate to make the money if you really need to.
    You spend money on the scrolls to fabricate gold into gold pieces? I'm really not sure what you're getting at here. There are ways to break WBL, but I don't think that's one of them. You'd have to UMD to make walls of salt or something.

    Quote Originally Posted by NigelWalmsley View Post
    Your Diplomacy check is about as good, considering synergy bonuses, so outside combat you can turn anyone you meet Helpful.
    You can also UMD various utility spells, or just straight-up wish.

    Quote Originally Posted by NigelWalmsley View Post
    No DM is going to allow 30 skill ranks at 3rd level but not buying items. It's like saying that you can totally do Chain Binding to get an infinite Efreet army, but that you won't be allowed to start from a Candle of Invocation rather than a casting of Planar Binding.
    It's more common to find a wizard able to cast polymorph than a wizard able to cast wish; that much is just true. Therefore, items containing 9ths should be more rare than those of lower levels. Even rarer may be items with partial charges, given no one will be in the business of making partially charged items, as they are made with full charges. Even rarer will be partially charged items with 9ths. Getting to 30 skill-ranks is quantifiably easier than finding a staff with one charge of Holy Word.

    Quote Originally Posted by NigelWalmsley View Post
    No, it doesn't. The ceiling you are describing is lower than what a couple of T4 classes can do at a lower level. Yes, you can get Divine Ranks. But so what? At a high enough CL, Holy Word (or equivalents) still kills you with no save. If this trick makes the Bard T2, the tier system has lost all meaning.
    With Divine Ranks, you are entitled to divine traits and salient abilities. After overcoming Hades, you gain +20 to all saves, a ton of immunities and resistances, a host of powers and abilities, and SR 49. Beyond that, however, you also gain portfolio sense -- which means, barring some means to summon you to the wizard's side, means you will never be put in a situation where that wizard-emulator could use the Holy Word on you. Notably, however, it looks like casting a spell from a staff still counts as a spellcasting action, so it should also be affected from the Hymn of Spelldeath, barring a high enough concentration check. However, this isn't strictly a PVP build. I was just demonstrating that, properly optimized, bardic music can do some impressive things.

    Ultimately, I think you're trying to argue something very different than I am. Bards, when optimized fully, can get divine ranks (a difficult feat) and stop enemy spellcasting; if you are playing such a fully-optimized bard, I think the bard will best be described as T2. Note that the OP doesn't say "now, I have proved bards are T2!!" It says,

    Music of the Gods seems to enable bards to be T2 in my opinion.
    The average bard, of course, is not T2, as they do not have Music of the Gods or such optimized access to bardic music. I'm not sure that a similarly optimized marshal or rogue could say the same, save for their ability to pretend to be a wizard with UMD, but in emulating a wizard, certainly their power skyrockets. If a bard took a 1-level dip in marshal, they could emulate a wizard pretty well, too, and maybe be more effective (given their native spellcasting), but again, as stated in the title, the goal was to optimize bardic music, the iconic bard class feature, not optimize UMD.

    The Hymn is a very interesting ability when it doesn't get no-sell'd by Mind Blank or another immunity. Likewise, the ability to get divine ranks is relatively unique without actually going infinite as a Pun-Pun-like creature. I'm glad to have written up an optimized path to accomplish both those abilities in a relatively compact number of levels.
    Quote Originally Posted by eggynack View Post
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Despair View Post
    You spend money on the scrolls to fabricate gold into gold pieces? I'm really not sure what you're getting at here. There are ways to break WBL, but I don't think that's one of them. You'd have to UMD to make walls of salt or something.
    Fabricate makes stuff you can sell for money. If that stuff sells for more than the cost of raw materials + the cost of a Scroll of Fabricate, you can break WBL. Of course, there are other ways you can break WBL too.

    It's more common to find a wizard able to cast polymorph than a wizard able to cast wish; that much is just true. Therefore, items containing 9ths should be more rare than those of lower levels.
    That's not what the game says. You buy stuff up to the GP limit. That's it. You can argue that's stupid or doesn't make sense, but frankly so is 30 skill ranks at 3rd level.

    I was just demonstrating that, properly optimized, bardic music can do some impressive things.
    Sure. But remember the tools you are using to do that. You're basically pointing out that once you've done something that could turn you into Pun-Pun, you could also do some cool stuff if you happened to be a Bard. And while that's totally true, I don't really see how it's a particularly interesting or meaningful point. After all, if you're allowing people to do Polymorph cheese, they can just get actual infinite power. And if you're allowing people to get 30 skill ranks at 3rd level, they don't need to mess around with Bard and Bard PrCs, they can just win every encounter ever with no save at that point.

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    Dragon #301 has the "Meter and Measure" article, which introduced concept of Masterpiece Performances
    Anybody can perform a Masterpiece Performance, but only Bardic Music allow to get special benefits from it
    The article contains over a dozen of "example" Masterpiece Performances, and Craft Masterpiece Performance feat, which allow you to create a new your very own Masterpiece Performance - withing the limits of the table: most of bonuses/penalties are hard-capped at +10/-10 - except for the "Increased duration", "Increased range", "Extra creatures", and "Temporary Hit Dice" from Inspire Greatness - all of which are completely uncapped (sans the gp/XP cost and Craft check)

    Some books listed effects of certain mundane (if masterwork) instruments on Bardic Music (mostly, it's Song and Silence and Complete Adventurer, but also some books from Kingdoms of Kalamar)

    "Cutting Up The Dragon – Useful Bits From Formidable Foes" (Dragon #332): Dragonsong Instruments - crafted from vocal chords of dragons; improve all of "common" variations of Bardic Music; to craft such instrument, you would need Dragoncrafter feat

    Also, I don't sure, but maybe Reverberation feat (Savage Species) would work on a Bardic Music?
    Or, how about the Ability Focus?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Despair View Post
    Reaching 30 Perform Ranks by Level 3
    Music of the Gods also requires that you have 30 ranks in Perform. Normally, that would mean that you would need to be level 27 to select the feat, but as with the requirement to be level 21 or higher, there are ways to satisfy this requirement early. For example, the Primary Contact feat would allow a character to exceed their maximum skill rank by 1, although that is woefully insufficient for this job. Likewise, taking three Bloodline levels can raise your maximum skill cap by 3, which falls a little shy of the 30 ranks we need to achieve, but is a step in the right direction. The most significant way to raise your skill ranks past their normal maximum, however, is by using temporary hit dice. There are a variety of ways to gain temporary hit dice, and when they expire, there are no game rules written that remove skill ranks you've expended beyond your new, lower maximum. Indeed, with the Primary Contact feat, there is precedent for legally having skill ranks beyond your maximum without issue. Some common sources of temporary hit dice are:

    • Inspire Greatness, a bardic music, ironically enough, that grants 2 bonus hit dice, which can be increased with the feats Song of the Heart and Words of Creation to grant 6 bonus hit dice
    • Contracting one or more strains of Lycanthropy, which grants the relevant animal hit dice for each strain (sadly, not applicable to dragons)
    • Using the Polymorph spell (or a similar effect) to take the form of a Dusk Giant (Heroes of Horror), gaining their extraordinary Cannibalize special attack. Cannibalize, among other things, allows Dusk Giants to consume 20HD of nonsentient living creatures (take your pick of defenseless creatures like chickens, or perhaps a can of worms) to gain 1 hit dice. They can do this until they reach 24HD, and the HD fade at a rate of 1/day, assuming they don't vanish when the Polymorph ends and you lose the ability, or can be drained off by a handy negative-level-inducing undead.


    Combining the Polymorph method with three levels of a Bloodline (or even just one use of Inspire Greatness) would leave us with a maximum skill rank of 30 or higher. If we can maintain this for long enough, we could use the retraining rules to load all the skillpoints we gained at our most recent level, but the easier method is to use the psionic power Psychic Reformation to shuffle our skillpoints around to their desired locations.
    You need to be a 9th level Bard to get Inspire Greatness. And even if you convince another bard to inspire you to greatness, the effects are clearly described:
    Quote Originally Posted by Inspire Greatness
    A creature inspired with greatness gains 2 bonus Hit Dice (d10s), the commensurate number of temporary hit points (apply the target’s Constitution modifier, if any, to these bonus Hit Dice), a +2 competence bonus on attack rolls, and a +1 competence bonus on Fortitude saves. The bonus Hit Dice count as regular Hit Dice for determining the effect of spells that are Hit Dice dependant. Inspire greatness is a mind-affecting ability.
    That is, you don't get skill ranks when IG is applied. And that is why there is no mention of losing skill points when IG wears off.

    Now, Polymorph is limited by the subject's HD. It explicitly says that a target of the spell cannot gain HD by polymorphing into something with more HD.
    Quote Originally Posted by Polymorph
    The assumed form can’t have more Hit Dice than your caster level (or the subject’s HD, whichever is lower), to a maximum of 15 HD at 15th level
    Least Dusk Giant is 6 HD. So perhaps you can get a good Bard (you have to be good to get SotH) to use IG to increase your HD to 6, so you qualify to get a wizard to polymorph into a (usually chaotic evil, cannibalistic) Dusk Giant.

    But even if you have enough diplomacy or wealth to get a wizard to polymorph you within the duration of the IG, you would have to get the bard to maintain the song for the entire duration of the polymorph. (If you fail to qualify when the IG runs out, the polymorph would revert.)

    Polymorph lasts for minutes/level, so 7 minutes for a wizard able to cast the spell. Thus you would be a 6HD creature eating 20HD of food in 7 minutes. That is not going to happen. That's a week or more of eating.

    It would be perhaps doable to eat 5HD of sentient living creatures, but even that is debatable (eating your own weight in 7 minutes, or even 14 if the spell is extended). And good luck getting your good bard to stand around singing to enable you to eat an intelligent creature.

    But again, you return to your regular form with your previous scores and HD, losing all the benefits of changes you made while in your temporary form. The idea you get to keep skill ranks you gained from the Big Meal is stretching credulity, IMHO.


    And if you become a lycanthrope, gaining 2 HD you also have a LA for those hit dice. The HD don't keep you as a second level bard. You become a Bard2/Werewolf2.

    A lycanthrope adds skill points for its animal Hit Dice much as if it had multiclassed into the animal type. It gains skill points equal to (2 + Int modifier, minimum 1) per Hit Die of the animal form.
    So this isn't exactly a way of getting a level 2 creature to have more skill ranks than allowed. If you become a werewolf you become a 4th ECL creature.


    And none of this seems to in any way invalidate the clear rule about the maximum number of skill ranks you can have:
    Quote Originally Posted by Skills
    Your maximum rank in a class skill is your character level + 3.Your maximum rank in a cross-class skill is one-half of this number (do not round up or down).


    In addition to all this, psychic reformation also explicitly says the standard rules (like this one above about maximum limits) still apply to your skill ranks:
    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic Reformation
    The subject must abide by the standard rules for selecting skills and feats, and so it cannot take feats for which it doesn’t qualify or take crossclass skills as class skills.
    that rule seems crystal clear. Even if you could gain HD and skill ranks, and somehow manage to keep them, and use PR to rearrange them, you could not rearrange them into more ranks that your maximum for class skill ranks, which is limited by your character level to ECL+3.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hiro Quester View Post
    You need to be a 9th level Bard to get Inspire Greatness. And even if you convince another bard to inspire you to greatness, the effects are clearly described:


    That is, you don't get skill ranks when IG is applied. And that is why there is no mention of losing skill points when IG wears off.

    Now, Polymorph is limited by the subject's HD. It explicitly says that a target of the spell cannot gain HD by polymorphing into something with more HD.

    Least Dusk Giant is 6 HD. So perhaps you can get a good Bard (you have to be good to get SotH) to use IG to increase your HD to 6, so you qualify to get a wizard to polymorph into a (usually chaotic evil, cannibalistic) Dusk Giant.

    But even if you have enough diplomacy or wealth to get a wizard to polymorph you within the duration of the IG, you would have to get the bard to maintain the song for the entire duration of the polymorph. (If you fail to qualify when the IG runs out, the polymorph would revert.)

    Polymorph lasts for minutes/level, so 7 minutes for a wizard able to cast the spell. Thus you would be a 6HD creature eating 20HD of food in 7 minutes. That is not going to happen. That's a week or more of eating.

    It would be perhaps doable to eat 5HD of sentient living creatures, but even that is debatable (eating your own weight in 7 minutes, or even 14 if the spell is extended). And good luck getting your good bard to stand around singing to enable you to eat an intelligent creature.

    But again, you return to your regular form with your previous scores and HD, losing all the benefits of changes you made while in your temporary form. The idea you get to keep skill ranks you gained from the Big Meal is stretching credulity, IMHO.


    And if you become a lycanthrope, gaining 2 HD you also have a LA for those hit dice. The HD don't keep you as a second level bard. You become a Bard2/Werewolf2.



    So this isn't exactly a way of getting a level 2 creature to have more skill ranks than allowed. If you become a werewolf you become a 4th ECL creature.


    And none of this seems to in any way invalidate the clear rule about the maximum number of skill ranks you can have:


    In addition to all this, psychic reformation also explicitly says the standard rules (like this one above about maximum limits) still apply to your skill ranks:


    that rule seems crystal clear. Even if you could gain HD and skill ranks, and somehow manage to keep them, and use PR to rearrange them, you could not rearrange them into more ranks that your maximum for class skill ranks, which is limited by your character level to ECL+3.
    In order:

    * You can hire a bard to perform for you if you don't have the ability yourself. Additionally, Heartfire Fanners gain it at character level 9, so long as you have the requisite perform ranks

    * You're right that they don't grant skill ranks, but they do raise your max skill cap, as I described there. You use Psychic Reformation to add them in up to the new max.

    * SotH doesn't mention being good as a prereq, and it isn't exalted

    * Polymorph doesn't have any provisions to revert you if you lose HD; intentionally so, I'd assume, as they don't want it to be dispelled by a single negative level

    * Please cite rules that you cannot eat 20HD of worms, or that 20HD of worms is a week's food.

    * There are no rules that would cause you to lose skill points upon having your maximum lowered

    * As I said, dragons can't become lycanthropes, so that's unusable regardless

    * Psychic Reformation doesn't have any provisions that would prevent you from alocating your skill ranks up to your maximum. Your effective HD after the cannibalize-uses is 24; your major bloodline raises your skill cap from 27 to 30.
    Quote Originally Posted by eggynack View Post
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    This is all based on the assumption that dragonwrought kobolds can take epic feats, right? Right.
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    Default Re: How Far Can We Optimize Bardic Music?

    Quote Originally Posted by Crake View Post
    This is all based on the assumption that dragonwrought kobolds can take epic feats, right? Right.
    That's true. I know there's a lot of controversy over whether they count as true dragons (the last thread went like 30+ pages if I remember correctly), but it seems a bit more clear-cut whether or not they can select epic feats.
    Quote Originally Posted by eggynack View Post
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Despair View Post
    In order:

    * You can hire a bard to perform for you if you don't have the ability yourself. Additionally, Heartfire Fanners gain it at character level 9, so long as you have the requisite perform ranks

    * You're right that they don't grant skill ranks, but they do raise your max skill cap, as I described there. You use Psychic Reformation to add them in up to the new max.

    * SotH doesn't mention being good as a prereq, and it isn't exalted

    * Polymorph doesn't have any provisions to revert you if you lose HD; intentionally so, I'd assume, as they don't want it to be dispelled by a single negative level

    * Please cite rules that you cannot eat 20HD of worms, or that 20HD of worms is a week's food.

    * There are no rules that would cause you to lose skill points upon having your maximum lowered

    * As I said, dragons can't become lycanthropes, so that's unusable regardless

    * Psychic Reformation doesn't have any provisions that would prevent you from alocating your skill ranks up to your maximum. Your effective HD after the cannibalize-uses is 24; your major bloodline raises your skill cap from 27 to 30.
    You are right about SotH. I was thinking of Words of Creation. So your Bard would have to be exalted, still, to grant temporary 6HD

    That assumption about Polymorph is highly dubious. Negative levels don't remove Hit Dice (just -5 HP pr negative level), so would not affect the HD of creature you could be polymorphed into. The idea that you keep extra HD you get from eating as a Dusk Giant is highly dubious.

    If you are a 6 HD creature for 7 minutes, please explain how you find and eat more than 3 times your HD in worms. It's not given you could even find that many worm swarms in time.

    Maybe you could buy them?

    But could you afford to pay the Wizard for polymorph, pay a 9th level good Bard or HFF, and buy that many worms? for many repeated castings as your HD increase?

    Remember, to get to polymorph into a 20HD giant, you'd need a 20th level caster, willing to take time away from their high-level arcane studies to enable you to eat worms. And that last spell in the series of many castings you would need to have cast on you is 40 (4th level spell)x20 =8000 gp. You are going to have to be well beyond WBL to manage that by 3rd level.

    And you have not yet paid the bard for Inspire Greatness, nor the Psion for Psychic reformation (and that costs XP).

    Edit: also if you gained 21 HD at level 2, you would be an epic creature, with 21 Racial HD and 2 levels of Bardic Sage. So you gain no more levels until you have epic-level XP. And when you do, you don't gain spellcasting as normal, per epic sppellcasting progression.
    Last edited by Hiro Quester; 2020-09-28 at 05:26 PM.
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    This. This sooooo much. I wasn't expecting *two* thread wins from you.
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    Default Re: How Far Can We Optimize Bardic Music?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hiro Quester View Post
    But could you afford to pay the Wizard for polymorph, pay a 9th level good Bard or HFF, and buy that many worms? for many repeated castings as your HD increase?

    Remember, to get to polymorph into a 20HD giant, you'd need a 20th level caster, willing to take time away from their high-level arcane studies to enable you to eat worms.
    One casting; you gain the canibalize ability after one casting of polymorph, and that enables you to gorge yourself on the low-HD creatures to gain HD. You therefore only need a wizard capable of casting polymorph, not a wizard of caster level 20.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hiro Quester View Post
    Edit: also if you gained 21 HD at level 2, you would be an epic creature, with 21 Racial HD and 2 levels of Bardic Sage. So you gain no more levels until you have epic-level XP.
    The Dusk Giant HD go away naturally at a rate of 1/day. However, you could remove them more quickly with negative levels if you intentionally fail the save after 24 hours.
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    Default Re: How Far Can We Optimize Bardic Music?

    There's no reason for this to have any impact on tiering because it's all Theoretical Optimization, and has nothing to do with how anyone anywhere has ever actually played Bards. Crusaders aren't T2 because of the Idiot Crusader trick.

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    Default Re: How Far Can We Optimize Bardic Music?

    Quote Originally Posted by DeAnno View Post
    There's no reason for this to have any impact on tiering because it's all Theoretical Optimization, and has nothing to do with how anyone anywhere has ever actually played Bards. Crusaders aren't T2 because of the Idiot Crusader trick.
    I was suggesting that this bard was tier 2 (bards with Music of the Gods), not bards in general. It goes to show that it requires TO to make that argument, however: bardic music is of limited strength, even when fully optimized.
    Quote Originally Posted by eggynack View Post
    What I care about here, though, is that the highest standard of pedantry is upheld.
    Level 6 Dread Necromancers can start the apocalypse
    Level 12 Bards can counter T1 spellcasters and kill Greater Deities

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    Default Re: How Far Can We Optimize Bardic Music?

    Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Despair View Post
    One casting; you gain the canibalize ability after one casting of polymorph, and that enables you to gorge yourself on the low-HD creatures to gain HD. You therefore only need a wizard capable of casting polymorph, not a wizard of caster level 20.
    Dusk Giant needs to eat 20 HD of non sentient creatures to gain 1Hd. A second level bard getting 21 HD through this method would have to eat 20x21=420 HD of creatures in the 7minutes of that polymorph spell.

    A dusk giant gains HD slowly, over the course of its life, as it eats creatures. It’s preposterous that a 6HD creature could grow to 4 times it’s weight (6HD to 24 HD) in one 7 minute meal.

    You are going to need more than one casting of polymorph.

    its an interesting TO idea, but making it work requires some questionable assumptions about the rules and some extremely unrealistic portion sizes.
    Last edited by Hiro Quester; 2020-09-29 at 07:51 AM.
    Quote Originally Posted by danielxcutter View Post
    This. This sooooo much. I wasn't expecting *two* thread wins from you.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hiro Quester View Post
    Hello Gishes! Look at your sword. Now look at Thunderlance… Sadly, your sword isn't a Thunderlance.
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    Default Re: How Far Can We Optimize Bardic Music?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hiro Quester View Post
    Dusk Giant needs to eat 20 HD of non sentient creatures to gain 1Hd. A second level bard getting 21 HD through this method would have to eat 20x21=420 HD of creatures in the 7minutes of that polymorph spell.

    A dusk giant gains HD slowly, over the course of its life, as it eats creatures. It’s preposterous that a 6HD creature could grow to 4 times it’s weight (6HD to 24 HD) in one 7 minute meal.

    You are going to need more than one casting of polymorph.
    Again, find me rules that prohibit you from gorging yourself on worms. These are RAI assumptions you're imposing on DND, which is fine to do as a DM, but are not flaws with the process.
    Quote Originally Posted by eggynack View Post
    What I care about here, though, is that the highest standard of pedantry is upheld.
    Level 6 Dread Necromancers can start the apocalypse
    Level 12 Bards can counter T1 spellcasters and kill Greater Deities

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    Default Re: How Far Can We Optimize Bardic Music?

    Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Despair View Post
    Again, find me rules that prohibit you from gorging yourself on worms. These are RAI assumptions you're imposing on DND, which is fine to do as a DM, but are not flaws with the process.
    What's the world-record speed-eating champion eat at a rate of? And if we're REALLY gonna say "RAW or die!" then what's the statblock of a worm? Show it to me, in an actual rulebook.

    Moreover, I'll echo those who say that if your step one is "Get an epic feat that requires 30 skill ranks in one skill at level three," then that's not so much "Breaking Bardic Music" as it is "Breaking core game mechanics".
    I have a LOT of Homebrew!

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